Wandering Jew (the plant)

First off, if I hadn’t mentioned it, would you have known I was referring to a plant?

If you’re not familiar, they look like this.

Anyway, I was in the garden section at Squalmart and was admiring one of these plants. A guy was passing by and commented that it looked like a healthy one. I said I hadn’t seen one in a store or nursery for ages and then I looked at the label and remarked , laughing, “I see they don’t call them wandering jews anymore”. He kind of laughed and proceeded to tell me “it’s just like how we’re not allowed to call Goliath Grouper “Jew Fish” anymore. They called them that because they’d always steal your bait”
All I could really say is “good to know”.:dubious:

Let me preface this by saying I’m not particularly offended but I don’t think they’re really the same. And I can see how someone could be quite offended so why on earth this guy thought making a crack like that to a perfect stranger was a good idea I cannot imagine. Of course, I commented first about the name of the plant but again, not the same thing.
What do you all think? Also, why did these plants disappear for so long? Do they still call them Wandering Jews elsewhere? I had no problem finding them online under that name.

Well, ya know…people. They’re not too bright.
Wandering Jew is the only name I know that plant by, but I’m not surprised it isn’t the one a nursery would use.

Sinc “Wandering Jew” is based on an anti-Semitic legend, it’s not surprising that common name for the plant/genus has fallen out of favor.

“Jewfish” also has ugly connotations.

“The descriptions of jewfish by Ogilby and Jordan quoted above make it obvious to us. The physical and behavioral characteristics mentioned by them are ones that many jewfishes share: large size, stout body, ugly head with a large mouth, dull color, and sedentary behavior, yet with voracious feeding habits.”


You mentioned an offensive name for a plant, he mentioned an offensive name for a fish. Seems pretty comparable to me.

Mrs. Plant (v.2.0) who is Jewish said, “It is okay because of the diaspora”.

I didn’t know the plant name was offensive; still not really sure that it is. Comparing a fish to “thieving jews” is a tad harsher, I think.

^ This.

The Wandering Jew myth seems pretty offensive to this non-Jew.


I imagine that anything said about Jews in 13th century Europe was offensive.

Just curious; is that the origin story most people know / have heard? I wasn’t aware of it until today.

I also thought it was called that because of the Jewish people’s dispersal across the globe. (That’s what the “diaspora” comment ^^ meant, right?)

Hell, I never heard of the “cursed to wander forever” story in the 1st place.

The plant that’s known in my area as ‘Wandering Jew’ looks like this and it’s an evil weed, nobody would ever sell it in a nursery. I pull it out of my garden by the bucketful.

People these days tend to call it ‘Wandering Dew’ which sounds nearly identical and is much less offensive (while admittedly making very little sense)

My first thought is of the The Flying Dutchman: the captain is cursed, like the Wandering Jew, to live until judgement day. The idea re-occurs in popular culture in ideas like The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

I also know the name of the weed, so seeing the clarification in the title didn’t surprise me.

Naming a weed that’s cursed to wander the garden and not die, after a similarly cursed Semitic villain seems a natural association to me, and yes of course it’s offensive to anybody who associates the term with real people.

And it is a weed. All the worst weeds are nice-looking garden plants.

You can buy that as groundcover here in the American Midwest.

Another politically incorrect plant name:

Mother-in-law’s Tongue. (Snake Plant)

Wait. So what are the calling this plant now? It’s always been Wandering Jew for as long as I’ve known. Is it just “spiderwort” now? Or “Tradescantia” (which seems to be a genus name for several related plants)?

I *think *it was Tradescantia. Definitely a scientific name, anyway.

As someone who comes from a Jewish family the name doesn’t offend me / never offended anyone I know, so it will remain Wandering Jew for me.

This Tradescantia is what I have always know as spiderwort. It is a native of the South.

This one is what I’ve always heard referred to as Wandering Jew.

This is the one my grandma used to grow. She was VERY Jewish, and never expressed being offended by the name.